Q: When did you last travel to Xanadu and why were you there?
A: I was there last in 2008, researching my book on Marco Polo – Xanadu, as it is in the UK, Marco Polo in the US, where it accompanies the Netflix series on Marco. Q: Why do you love the location?
A: Yuan Shang Du, as it is in Chinese, is remarkably untouched. Sweeping grasslands, wildflowers, distant hills, low walls, and very few tourists. That’s in summer, and good weather. Q: What top three sights would you recommend people to visit when there and why?
A: There are no other sights other than Xanadu itself. But it’s big. Go to the base of the central palace, where Kublai Khan received Marco, and range out from there. Q: During what period of its history would you have most wanted to have visited Xanadu and why?
A: During the summer of 1275 when Marco arrived with his father and uncle. Thereafter, any summer would do, up until Kublai’s death in 1294. Q: Where else in the world would you like to visit and why?
A: Easter Island. I’m intrigued by the way in which the islanders destroyed their environment, while carving ever bigger statues to preserve themselves. What a lesson for the world.
John Man is a historian and travel writer. He will be leading a tour to Xanadu with Steppes Travel in September 2016.
You can read John’s feature in the February 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine, on sale from 28 January.